22 February 2020

Weekend Cooking: Cookbooks on My Mother's Shelves

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish ReadsOne of the more difficult tasks that children face after their last parent dies is cleaning out their house. My mother was still living in the same four-bedroom, two-story house that we moved to in 1964. Although neither she nor my father was a hoarder, there are still quite a number of personal items that my brothers and I need to look through.

Among my mother's things were dozens of cookbooks. Only one of my brothers is a dedicated cook, so the two of us went through the books, picking out the ones we wanted to take home. Many evoked fond memories and prompted stories about holidays or special occasions, which made our job a little bit lighter.

I ended up taking only seven cookbooks, and that's what's today's Weekend Cooking post is all about.

Lee Bailey

The first four I knew I wanted to find on my mom's shelves were all by Lee Bailey (the food writer, not the attorney). Bailey had a down-to-earth attitude about cooking and used to write a monthly column for Food & Wine magazine. As I said in a post I wrote in 2012:

Bailey's books are known for their beautiful photography, not only of the food but of the table settings, rooms, people, and natural surroundings. I love that his cookbooks are arranged by complete menus. Depending on the book and recipes, he also writes about wine choices, the inspiration behind the meal, the right occasion to serve the meal, and so on.
I'm pretty sure his books are currently out of print, which is why I was happy to find four on my mother's bookshelves. I had a really hard time finding cover images for his books; thus the fuzzy photos below.

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads
  • City Food (Clarkson Potter, 1984) has menus with such great titles as "On a Ferry," "A Swell, Swell Dinner," "On a Rooftop Terrace," and "In a Painter's Loft." Yet, in true Bailey fashion, the menus are quite accessible. Here's one: Grill tuna with Creole sauce, string beans and mushrooms, oven-baked potato chips, coconut flan, wine, and coffee.
  • Cooking for Friends (Clarkson Potter, 1992) compiles menus from around the world, including the Florida Keys, Gascony, New York City, and Tuscany. One of the Greek menus goes like this: pistachio-coated fish with cucumber sauce, orzo with onions and black olives, baked honey-mint tomatoes, and peach bread pudding with brandy jam sauce.
  • Country Desserts (Clarkson Potter, 1988) breaks from Bailey's signature menus to give us tons of recipes for down-home cakes, cobbles, cookies, ice cream, and pies. The kids' desserts are hardly just for kids and the pound cakes, muffins, tarts, and bread puddings will make your mouth water.
  • Good Parties (Clarkson Potter, 1986) covers the seasons from lazy summer lunches to city birthday parties, warming Sunday roasts, and winter getaways. A Sunday pasta dinner consists of vegetarian pasta with tomatoes and peppers, a lettuce and cheese salad, crusty bread, a peach cake, and wine and coffee.
If you ever see any of Lee Bailey's cookbooks at a yard sale or used book store, don't pass them by. Some of the ideas/meals may be dated, but all his recipes are pretty much guaranteed to succeed.

Thoughts for . . .

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish ReadsIn the late 1950s and early 1960s, Houghton Mifflin published three cookbooks: Thoughts for Food, Thoughts for Buffets, and Thoughts for Festive Foods (maybe not in that order). My mother used the latter two so much that they no longer have covers, so I had to search the internet for images (which you see to the right). So many of our long-time family favorite dishes came from these cookbooks that I had to have my mother's copies. I love that she wrote in the books and that they are so beaten up. I'm not sure how much I'll cook from these books, but I'm going smile every time I see them on my bookshelf. One puzzle though: Why didn't she own the first cookbook? Hummm.

Knopf Cooks American

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish ReadsBack in 2011, I wrote about the cookbook series Knopf Cooks American, which was published in the 1980s and 1990s (I think) and covered all kinds of cuisines and regional cooking found in United States, from the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest. I bought at least six books in the series and so was happy to see that my mom had one of the titles I didn't own.

Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America was first published in 1994 and encompasses quite a broad range of flavors and traditions. The subtitle pretty much tells you all you need to know about this cookbook: "A splendid feast of over 300 Kosher recipes, old and new. With stories from Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews who settled throughout this country." The book is also full of black-and-white family photos that document family meals, celebrations, menus, and restaurants. It doesn't look like my mother ever cooked out of this book, but I did find some recipe clippings tucked in its pages.
Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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Mae Travels 2/22/20, 7:30 AM  

Your mother's cookbook collection sounds like a wonderful way to remember her. I'm unfamiliar with the first cookbooks, but I have that Joan Nathan book, and it's really a good historical food book. I wish you good memories from these!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

GypsyPlate 2/22/20, 7:44 AM  

So many nice memories. As a foodie, I'm sure those cookbooks will be some of your most treasured possessions.

gluten Free A_Z Blog 2/22/20, 8:04 AM  

Food does connect us to fond memories! I have two of my mothers cookbooks from the 1950's and one is a comprehensive Jewish cookbook. I haven't seen Joan Nathan's but it sounds really interesting.

Tina 2/22/20, 8:18 AM  

Goodness, that must have been bittersweet to save such great books that evoked good memories. I hadn’t heard of Lee Bailey but I’ll certainly be on the lookout now.

Shaheen 2/22/20, 9:04 AM  

Rich memories are often connected to food made by our loved ones.

Jinjer-The Intrepid Angeleno 2/22/20, 9:32 AM  

How wonderful to have those cookbooks from your mother, as well as her notes!

An Amazon reseller has one of those Thoughts on books, new, and is selling it for $851!!!

What were some of your Mom's tried and true recipes from that series of books?

bermudaonion 2/22/20, 9:32 AM  

It sounds like those cookbooks will bring you memories and comfort for years.

rhonda 2/22/20, 9:49 AM  

Lovely that you’ll have these wonderful mens of your mother in a room you love the kitchen.��

Jackie McGuinness 2/22/20, 10:30 AM  

I have been searching for a cookbook that my mother had back in the 60s. How I wish I had kept her books!
But I do have a small album that she made me with some of our family recipes.

rhapsodyinbooks 2/22/20, 10:30 AM  

I love older cookbooks! So many of them feature basic recipes, without feeling like they have to make it seem all fancy. I think they are very fun both to look at and to use. And it sounds like a great way to remember your mom!

Claudia 2/22/20, 10:44 AM  

A precious way to remember your mother and all the lovely meals she made for her family. Maybe the missing Thoughts book was loaned or given to a friend.

Deb in Hawaii 2/22/20, 12:19 PM  

I think the beaten up, written in family books are the best. I have a couple family cookbooks from my grandmother and mom and love the little notes. Something to treasure for sure.

raquelosborne 2/22/20, 3:41 PM  

So many delicious-sounding recipes! I'm excited to learn more about them

Katherine P 2/22/20, 5:04 PM  

What a wonderful collection of cookbooks and how fun to have found a volume you don't have. It's so hard to go through loved ones' things.

Tina 2/23/20, 9:06 AM  

I checked our library and they have 3 Lee Bailey cookbooks so I reserved them. Thanks for the tip!

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/23/20, 10:58 AM  

What a lovely way to remember your mother. When my dad passed last year, I picked out a few of his favorite baseball shirts and hats and wear tehm on my walks. I like how they remind me of him when I wear them. This Christmas, my mom had pillows made for all of us kids out my dad's favorite shirts and they make me smile every time I see them.

Nan 2/23/20, 12:41 PM  

Such an important posting. Your mother must have been quite a cook to have so many cookbooks. I'm pretty sure mine had just The Joy of Cooking which was given to her by my then boyfriend and his friend, and perhaps the red Betty Crocker one. It's sad but I can't even recall where they were in the house, and I really have no memory of her using them. I think she may have used the recipes in her box? But again, I can't remember. I'm so happy that you chose some that will have a home in your kitchen. I kind of wonder what the other titles were - the ones you didn't want!

Abigail Pearson 2/23/20, 1:45 PM  

I have so many good memories of my grandmother cooking for my family, and I've been thinking about her cookbooks and recipes recently as she's having some health problems. I hope I can get copies of a few of them!

Peaceful Reader 2/23/20, 9:46 PM  

What a lovely post. You found such memorable treasures. My mother is a bit of a hoarder especially when it comes to cookbooks. I keep encouraging her to weed through them now so I don't have to but it hasn't happened yet.

Marg 2/24/20, 1:56 AM  

I don't think that my mother has any cookbooks that I would want. She's not such a good cook. I do think it is lovely that you get to keep those memories alive through her cookbooks.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 2/24/20, 9:04 PM  

What a wonderful way to remember your mom. When my grandma passed and later when my mom passed, we in the family were given our choice of personal item. For each of them, I chose their recipe box.

Carol 2/27/20, 10:46 AM  

What a wonderful way to remember your mom.

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